Most B2B Marketers Struggle To Create Engaging Content

Laura Ramos

When it comes to content marketing, the majority of business-to-business (B2B) marketers we surveyed last month are not as mature as they think.

Roughly half of respondents (52%) are in the early stages of assembling a content strategy and executing against it. We call this early majority "aspiring editors," and while their practices are often inconsistent or not fully embraced across the organization, these marketers are busy laying the foundation upon which to build an editorial point of view that gives their buyers something useful and valuable to read, watch, or interact with. 

In a new report, published today (subscription required), we took a closer look at the maturity of content marketing practices among 113 B2B marketing professionals. Half of our respondents hail from companies with 1,000 employees or more, and 41% occupy senior marketing positions including the title of CMO or senior vice president. When compared to peers, most (51%) believe their practices are very mature.  

But that bar is not very high when an overwhelming 85% can't connect content activity to business value and, as a result, fail to create those intimate long-term relationships that will form the primary source of competitive advantage in business from now on.

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Who Says That Sales Training Improves Sales Performance?

Mark Lindwall

Sales enablement professionals with responsibility for sales training clearly have a conflict: the desire to  help salespeople be successful, and  the demands of the organizational leaders who request multiple training activities for Sales. The fact is,  many sales training plans are massively diluted by a mish mash of uncoordinated  training activities. Training organizations are so bombarded by requests from Marketing, product groups, executives, sales management, and others, that they could deliver many months-worth of full day training events to salespeople every year -- if sales leadership would allow it. So managing demand, expectations, and results is a major challenge for training leaders.   

How Effective Is Sales Training?

Considering the amount of time that’s already invested in training, CEOs, sales leaders, sales managers are often asked how effective and impactful they believe sales training is. That’s reasonable given that they foot the bill, right? Nonetheless, their views are a distant second in importance to those whose opinion matter most. The people that best know how effective and impactful your sales training is are your buyers. 

Think about it. Salespeople are employed for the sole reason that you sell something complex enough that your customers need to talk with a salesperson to buy it. If that was not the case, they’d buy online and be done with it. Wouldn’t you? So every salesperson’s job is to create value for customers via their conversations. If they don’t accomplish that then there’s little chance of a sales because they’ll go elsewhere. So buyers, ultimately, are the purest judge of whether your sales training is effective in supporting selling (and consequently buying).

Sales Training Effectiveness According To Buyers

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How Mature Is Your Content Marketing?

Laura Ramos

According to the Content Marketing Institute, 91% of B2B marketers use content marketing. That's a big number. 

When I heard this last year, I had two reactions:

  1. No kidding. Isn't that marketing's job? To produce content? From advertising, to email, whitepapers, videos, blog posts, case studies, brochures . . . it's what marketing does, right? I'm surprised the result wasn't 100%. (I wonder what those 9% were doing instead?)
  2. Hmm . . . sounds like a bad joke I used to tell about enterprise portals . . . except now it goes something like, "How is content marketing like teenage sex . . . ?" (You can look it up . . . )
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Two Upcoming Reports On Marketing Automation Made In Europe

Peter O'Neill

Forrester is about to publish two of my reports discussing the state of marketing automation in Europe; one focuses on European buyers and the other on European vendors (they are currently with the vendors mentioned as what we call a  “courtesy copy” – they get a day or so notice before publication). Which will be great timing because we’re holding the EMEA edition of Forrester’s Forum for Marketing Leaders in London next week. I will enjoy showing these reports to clients there to demonstrate how we pay attention to their needs.

What I did in the first report, entitled “Which L2RM Platform Vendors Have an Edge in Europe? The L2RM Platform Forrester Wave™ From a European Point Of View,” was pretty simple. I took our January 2014 Forrester Wave™ analysis, which Lori Wizdo wrote and I edited, and focused on criteria that I know are more important for European marketers. I also considered whether or not each vendor was represented in each of the numerous European countries — and if so, how. Many lead-to-revenue management automation vendors with a global reach have still not seriously set up shop in Europe, because they consider firms here to be late adopters of marketing automation. European marketers, most of whom market internationally by necessity, do have different requirements than those who market primarily to a domestic market. Vendors that focus on those special requirements have a significant opportunity to thrive in the reviving European market.

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Three Key Ways To Embrace Your Big Data Destiny

Laura Ramos

Do you approach data analytics with the same enthusiasm as a big pile of leafy vegetables? You know you need to consume more of it, but, man, that steak, fries, or big piece of chocolate cake just seem so much more appealing.

Recently I asked Forrester webinar listeners (mostly marketing folks) to rate how they approached data analytics. It's a small sample, I know, but bear with me for a second.

Of the 16 people responding to the poll, six said that they were somewhat effective, and nine said that they were not effective or didn't use data analytics at all (the figure here shows the actual results). Taken together, that's more than 90%.

I found this fascinating because, just about a year ago, I teamed up with ITSMA and VisionEdge Marketing to explore the state of marketing’s performance management. While quizzing participants about reporting and dashboards, we slipped in a question or two about data analytic effectiveness, and the distribution of responses in 2013 are similar to this poll: Only 10% of those surveyed gave themselves a “thumbs up” for data analytic proficiency. What’s going on here? Do marketers really approach data with the same gusto as a large plate of kale?

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Myth-Busting At The Upcoming London Forrester Marketing Leadership Forum

Peter O'Neill

Peter O'Neill here. I’ve just finished the last peer-review of my presentation at the upcoming Forum For Marketing Leaders in London on May 13. All presenters go through a thorough review process before these events where other colleagues check through our outlines, drafts, and slide decks — all to ensure that Forrester delivers a concise and consistent story to the Forum attendees.  The Forum will be all about going beyond the marketing campaign and delivering visible value in context and on an ongoing basis. There were some interesting discussions about our strong opinion about marketing campaigns a few weeks ago during the US version of the Forum in San Francisco and we all look forward to continuing these discussions in London.  

Actually, most of the creative work for my session was done by Lori Wizdo, who presented her version in San Francisco (see here for some comments on that session). We had decided to do some “myth-busting” to help B2B marketers make better decisions about how to structure their lead-to-revenue management (L2RM) process based on their buyer journey research.

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B2B Marketing’s Big Data Myth: “It Only Applies to B2C”

Laura Ramos

If you think Big Data is something only B2C marketers need worry about, you’d be wrong.

As business buyers turn to the digital world to help them explore and solve pressing business problems, marketers will find that the data needed to propel their firms into the digital future isSource: Wikimedia Commons increasingly big.

The challenges we face in closing the gap between the amount of data available and our ability to get value from it are equally big.  Nevertheless, to become customer obsessed requires understanding your buyers much better and data is the key to that understanding.  During Forrester’s Forum for Marketing Leaders last week, I told B2B marketers that it’s time to make a date with their big data destiny. (The prior link is to our forum coming up in London -- you can also listen to my April 30 webinar to learn more on this topic.)

My colleague Brian Hopkins believes that - to exploit the business opportunity hiding in big piles of data - marketers must understand that data is increasingly:

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I Created A Message Framework On The Way To The Sales Enablement Forum

Peter O'Neill

Peter O'Neill here, now back in my home office after our successful  Sales Enablement Forum in Scottsdale, Arizona.  First, I must be totally honest with you, and selfish, my absolute highlight at the event was the day before when eight clients played golf with us on the famous TPC Stadium Course, which was where our event hotel was situated.

But the event itself was also quite spectacular for me.  I led a breakout track where we focused on how to create the right message for the target buyers you have in mind with your marketing and sales efforts. I had a great keynote speaker in Eduardo Conrado, from Motorola Solutions and I had my illustrious analyst-colleagues Laura Ramos and Sheryl Pattek as further guest speakers in the track to present other best practice examples.

Laura and Sheryl had also helped me to prepare for my own presentation which revolved around proposing a Message Framework and was based on the following agenda:

Ø  Buyer Expectations Are Different In The Age Of The Customer 

Ø  You Need One Consistent Message In Marketing Content And Sales Conversations

Ø  Your Message Must Stick In All The Right Places At The Right Times

Ø  So Pour The Message Into A Content Portfolio

Ø  Use Forrester’s Message Framework To Tune Or Rebuild Your Portfolio.


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Beware The "Buyers Already Know What They Want" Myth

Mark Lindwall

A new and pernicious myth as taken hold in many B2B Sales and Marketing organizations.  The myth - that buyers are 60-70% of the way through their buying cycle before they talk with a salesperson - is an intentional fallacy based on a false generalization that “buyers” means “all buyers”.  Search the web for phrases around this topic and you’ll find a substantial volume of vendors selling the myth as truth, much to their short term benefit.  In my discussions with both vendors and practitioners (leaders in Sales and Marketing), it is disturbing when they throw out the "60-70% ..." statement as if it were "fact" when, in reality, it is not only false but damaging to the revenue engine of companies who sell in the B2B space.

Not All Buyers Know What They Need

Our point of view is that not only are there different types of B2B buyers (we've identified four categories we call archetypes), but that in today's economy there are multiple buyers involved in decisions and they operate in what we call agreement networks. Some of these buyers - especially most executive buyers - want help in understanding complex problems in their business (including “unrealized opportunities”) before they ever think about products.  They may not yet be aware of a problem they are faced with, or they may know that they have a problem but don’t yet understand its patterns or implications or impact on their organization. They are (appropriately) weeks or months away from a search for a product or service.  It is these buyers who set the direction, before asking others in the agreement network (e.g. their teams) to get deeper into the details, including acquiring solutions.  

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Can Regulated Industries Thrive In The Age Of The Customer?

Laura Ramos

In 2010, we entered a new 20-year business cycle where successful companies will be those that better understand and serve increasingly powerful customers. But what happens when government authorities with very specific rules about how companies communicate with customers regulate these interactions?  

House Financial Services CommitteeWealth management, insurance, and pharmaceuticals come to mind as example industries where marketers and relationship managers feel this oversight most acutely. How do you thrive in the age of the customer when how you interact — and the data you maintain — is controlled by law? 

These are questions that I plan to explore next week with marketing and client experience executives from the financial services industry at "The Forward Thinker" sponsored by EarthIntegrate. Thinking through the issues around how to be more customer-obsessed in an industry where every communication could be monitored or audited, I believe that the main challenge is not to stray outside the regulatory guidelines while meeting growing client expectations for responsive, online, anytime, anywhere engagement — all while maintaining the intimacy that high-net-worth investors, for example, expect of their advisor relationships or that insurance members expect of brokers. 

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